“Somos negros de la costa”, “We are blacks from the Coast”, (Juvenile Afromexican Musicians in Oaxaca) is a project focused on musical creativity and musical learning modes, as forms of empowerment within emergent political culture of black or Afro-mexican communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. The project has been established in the pueblo Llano Grande La Banda and its objectives are to document and raise consciousness about the role music plays in young juvenile communities. It seeks to enrich its creativity and its performance abilities through music workshops, exploring a musical regeneration as a long term goal. The British Academy has granted the financial aid through Newton grants and the Centre of Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology has provided resources in equipment and support to make the workshops possible.Read more
Between April 2015 and March 2017, Dr. Sergio Navarrete Pellicer (CIESAS) and Dr. Lucy Duran (SOAS, from London University) are working with an intercultural team who specialize on music education and on the oral transmission of music in Mexico and West Africa. The balafonist musician Lassana Diabaté, an expert in Mande music tradition, along with Mexican musicians of oral tradition, members of the groups “Pasatonos”, “Son de Madera” and “Sak Tzevul”, have been invited to conduct three workshops of musical practice, taking the repertoires of the Costa chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero as a starting point. Lucy Duran’s and Lassana Diabaté’s participation is particularly notable, as they contribute with their musical ideas, improvisation strategies, musical compositions, and techniques of oral transmission, which are familiar to the Mande tradition of Mali in Africa.
We propose to generate didactic resources for intercultural musical education, short documentaries for online dissemination, a 30 minute documentary about the role creativity plays in music and in the daily life of black populations of the coast and in creating community. At the same time, we strengthen academic networks for future collaborations between participant researchers.
This project with no precedents, is about the musical creativity within black or Afro-mexican communities in Oaxaca, Mexico, and about the role that music and dance play in shaping the new generations.
The heptatonic balafon is familiar to the southern Mexican communities, given it is kin of the Mexican marimba, which, although originally from africa, shares a similar tone with the balafon. However, african techniques applied in playing the instrument have not been preserved in its practice. We aren’t suggesting that Mali is a specific source of Afro-Mexican heritage, nevertheless we use the balafon as a vehicle to explore the creativity and musical aesthetic of some of the most celebrated oral traditions of Africa. The reintroduction of the bajo quinto (within the guitar family) and the reinforcement of the violin, are experimental efforts that have proven to have positive reactions from students.
For centuries, African roots have penetrated Mexican culture, however, in the imaginary concept of the nation, this heritage wasn’t recognized till the mid 20th century. Today, Afro-Mexican communities in Oaxaca, are emerging political agents within a movement that fights for equal rights and opportunities in a multicultural state.
It is well known that large groups of African slaves were brought into New Spain between the second half of the 16th and the first decades of the 18th century, coming from slave ports in Cape Verde, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Angola and Congo. In the “Costa Chica” between the Acapulco port in Guerrero and the Huatulco port in Oaxaca there is a historically isolated black enclave of around 150,000, self ascribed as having black heritage. Historically, they dedicate themselves to cattle raising, subsistence and commercial agriculture, and fishing. The 2015 intercensal pole by INEGI, registered 1.4 million inhabitants that self identify as descendants from Africa in Mexico, from which 5% of this population reside in Oaxaca. This is a community that suffers alienation, poverty, limited access to formal education and healthcare which inevitably translate to a broken family life and structure that then lead to a culture of violence. The corrido (ballad) song repertoire is a testimony of the violence and revenge that exists in the black towns of the coast.
The inhabitants of this coastal region assert that music plays a critically formative and political role in communities. It is the means by which children and youth collaborate in communal activities. Playing instruments and dancing at the “fiestas” is a way of instilling the value of service to their communities, and generates knowledge on their local history and myths. Musical exchange among communities generates reciprocity. Music and dance in these coastal communities are powerful emblems of the movement that fights for the acknowledgment of social and political rights.
Using participative methodologies from the pedagogy (Wenger, 2001) of Ethnomusicology (Turino 2008) and Music Education (Green 2002), including a platform of previous investigations about the culture and music of the coastal region (ECMO 2013), the project initiates three intensive music workshops in the coastal Afro-Mexican communities of Llano Grande, El Ciruelo, and El maguey. Holding the objective to develop their knowledge and skills, and stimulate creativity among apprentice youth and local musicians.
Dr. Navarrete Pellicer will work with a team of local researchers to document musical occasions within ritual events and everyday life of these communities to contextualize musical culture that will be worked with within the workshops, and to construct a discourse of images, testimonies and reflections around music, its oral methods of apprenticeship and its impact on social life.
Throughout the project, texts about the Afro-Mexican history and culture, didactic musical material, recordings of music and dance, and videos for a documentary that will be released at the end of the project, will be produced.
In conclusion, the emphasis of the project is on the power of orality in the facilitation of rapid and enjoyable learning of music. We hope to stimulate expressive culture, youth’s capacity to communicate, and raise musical standards by encouraging apprentice youth to be professional and creative. We also hope to develop skills to carry out effective music workshops and to emphasize the benefits of collaborative practices in contrast with competitive and individualistic ones. We aspire to contribute to the regeneration of Afro-Mexican roots (tercera raíz) movements. As researchers we will gain a better understanding of Afro-Mexican points of view and ways of life, we will improve our collaboration techniques within the music workshops, and create new dynamic repertoires and educational resources, including those drawn from the Mande traditions in a unique encounter within the enclave of African heritage in Mexico.
We are happy to confirm that up until today, we have achieved and surpassed our expectations finishing the first year and stage of the project. Our workshops (August and October 2015) and concerts (October 2015) turned out to be important methodologies for the fulfilment of our goals. The musical encounter and collaboration between our team of mexican musicians (members of the groups Pasatono, Sak Tzebul and Son de Madera) and the Melanesian musician Lassana Diabaté (leader of the Da Kali Threesome, and composer of the Kronos quartet) has been successful, resulting in excellent creative presentations. This was an essential factor for our objective.
We will be building upon this collaboration during the second year of our project, including local musicians, and with the intention of producing a quality studio recording.
An unforeseen achievement is that we successfully took an offer from the BBC World Service to produce two half-hour documentaries on the topic of ‘Black Oaxaca’ as part of their series on Global identities. This was broadcasted on April 9th 2016 and was heard by millions around the world. This initiative has become part of the documenting process of the project.
Our workshops that took place in October 2015 and April 2016, attracted a constituency of around 30 boys and girls in October and 35 in April (aged between 7 and 18), they also engaged several teachers, local musicians, and some elders.
With few exceptions, most of the participants had little to no formal musical background and were just learning to play an instrument for the first time. However most of them were familiar with the Chilena, Merequetengue, and Sones de Artesa musica, as well as some local dances, such as the “Dance of the Devils”, the “Dance of the Turtle”, and “Petate Bull or the Cowboy dance.
One of the important outcomes of our work till now, has been to identify, document, and work with a body of songs and dances that are considered to be representative of the local Afro-Mexican community; as well as introducing a Melanesian repertoire.
In the second workshop, the violin workshop was edified as it received positive reactions from families who invested in the purchase of instruments for their children. The same effect happened in the guitar workshop, and we were faced with the opportunity to successfully reintroduce the bajo quinto, which along with the violin formed a part of the instrumental ensemble with which the repertoire of musical tradition of the coast was practiced over 50 years ago.
Terminating the October and April 2015 three week long workshops in Llano Grande, concerts were organized for the pueblo. It was of surprisingly high standard given the level at which most of the participants started at. Many of the young participants expressed a strong wish to continue their musical practice in the coming workshops which will take place this year during October. We trust that we will reach significant progress due to the support and motivation coming from the families, teachers, Llano Grande authorities, and our work team.
The principle envisaged output, our website, has been established in addition to sites on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo and Youtube. All of these sites have been given the name of ‘Somos negros de la costa’ (We are blacks from the coast). We have done around 40 hours of filming, documenting our events, interviews on culture and Afro-Mexican identity, and scenes of daily life like religious practices, agriculture, farming, and fishing. We include visits to the local markets, fairs, and horse races among other activities. We have also documented the important celebration of the Day of the Dead, in which three emblematic dances from the Afro-Mexican culture of the Oaxacan coast take place.
Green, Lucy. How Popular Musicians Learn. London, Ashgate, 2002.
Navarrete Pellicer, Sergio y Rubén Luengas. Etnografía de las culturas musicales en Oaxaca. Unpublished manuscript, COCYT-CONACYT, 2013.
Principales resultados de la encuesta intercensal 2015. Estados Unidos Mexicanos. México, INEGI, 2015.
Turino, Thomas. Music as Social Life. The Politics of Participation. Chicago and London, University of chicago Press, 2008.
Velázquez María Elisa y Gabriela Iturralde Nieto. Afrodescendientes en México. Una historia de silencio y discriminación. México, CONAPRED, INAH 2012.
Wenger Etienne, Comunidades de Práctica, España, Ed. Paidos, 2001.
Sergio Javier Navarrete Pellicer
Is a professor of CIESAS (Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthopology), a member of the Researchers National System (SNI level II), and a visiting scholar at SOAS London. He has a doctorate in Social Anthropology from the University of London and a Masters in Music with an emphasis in Ethnomusicology from the University of Maryland. He plays transversal flute. His areas of specialization are music history and ethnomusicology with an emphasis on Mexico, Guatemala, and Mexican musical traditions in US. He recently concluded the project “Ethnography of Musical Cultures in Oaxaca” (ECMO), and “Cathedral Sound Rituals: A multidisciplinary approachto the music of New Spain” (Conacyt).He is working to set up an intercultural music education program in Oaxaca. As a fellow from the British Academy (2105-2017) and in collaboration with Lucy Durán from SOAS of the University of London, he is running the Project Afromexican musical youth in Oaxaca. Roots, creativity and community: “Somos negros de la costa.“Expected results from this Project are the production of a documentary on Afro-mexican music communities in Oaxaca Mexico and music training of young musicians in these communities with the collaboration of Lucy Duran, Lassana Diabate a Mande griot musician from Mali and Pasatono orchestra from Mexico. His most recent publication is the coordination and edition of a five volume work titled “Ritual sonoro Catedralicio, México: CIESAS, 2013”; and “Maya Achi Marimba Music in Guatemala, Philadelphia, Temple Univeristy Press, 2005.
Is Senior Lecturer in African music at SOAS, University of London. Her principal field of research is Mande music, which she has been researching on location in Mali, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal since 1977, and on which she is widely published. Her research project, ‘Growing into Music in Mali’ documents through film the musical progress of children in leading Mande jeli (specialist castes of musicians) families in Mali and Guinea. They are available for viewing online on www.growingintomusic.co.uk, and include unique footage of jeli children learning music informally on location in Mali and Guinea, filmed between 2009-12. Her musical adviser for the project was the Malian balafon player, Lassana Diabate, who is a brilliant teacher with much experience in teaching children and adults, and is also a virtuoso and deeply traditional musician. Durán has a long professional involvement with the music industry, working as music producer, journalist and broadcaster. She was the regular presenter of BBC Radio 3’s flagship world music programme World Routes for the duration of its lifetime on air, 2000-2013. She has been music producer of twenty albums by leading West African musicians, including Bassekou Kouyaté (producing the album I speak fula which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2010), Kasse MadyDiabaté (nominated for a Grammy Award in 2004 for the album Kassi Kasse, produced by the Mexican company Discos Corason with Duran as music producer), and Toumani Diabaté, widely considered the most brilliant instrumentalist from Africa, whose career she launched, producing with his first six albums. She also produced his last album, Toumani & Sidiki, (which won a Grammy nomination, 2015).
Rubén Luengas Pérez*
Luengas carried out his studies in ethnomusicology at the National School of Music in the UNAM. However, the core of his academic musical education has its foundations in the concept of Dzbimusicalitydz developed by Mantle Hood. Luengas has been an apprentice of the indigenous musicians of the Mixtec tradition, from whom he has learnt: the language, musical concepts, musical forms, tunings, rituals, and orchestration. He is the youngest professional Bajo quinto (a type of guitar) instrumentalist in the Mixtec region (Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Puebla) who combines oral and written music traditions in his own practice.He is a music composer for a Mixtec Orchestra and Band, and for the DzOrquesta Mexicanadz (a Carlos Chavez concept), as well as for other traditional instruments. He has composed songs, suites, jarabes, and cinema, television and theater scores. Luengas is a researcher specialized in music and the Mixtec language, he has published articles in books, magazines, and records linked with institutions such as: INAH, COLEF, CIESAS, CONACULTA.
*Beneficiary of the National Creator Program 2016 -2019 of the National Fund for Culture and the Arts, Mexico.
Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté
Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté is undoubtedly Mali’s finest female voice today, revered at home for her knowledge of the traditional griot repertoire and for her rich and expressive voice and natural vibrato, inherited from her father, Kassé Mady Diabaté. She is rooted in the tradition of Kela where she grew up, a village in southwest Mali famous for its vast repertoire of griot music. Her family lineage is considered to hold the authoritative knowledge of the epic song about Sunjata Keita, founder of the Mali empire in 1235. Hawa is not only the daughter of Mali’s most celebrated male singer, but the great-niece of Mali’s best-known female singer and composer of the 20th century, the late Sira Mory Diabate. She mostly performs at the vibrant wedding parties around Bamako, capital of Mali, that are the main source of income for most Malian musicians. On stage, she has a remarkable poise and understated intensity that makes her unique in the world of traditional Mande music. Since becoming part of Trio Da Kali, she has broken entirely new ground, including an invitation to the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi in 2015 where she opened the celebratory concert with Indian Sufi Gospel creator, Sonam Kulra; in 2016 she performed solo vocals in Terry Riley’s innovative Mali in C with young instrumentalists from the Africa Express project. Hawa is gaining international fame with her contribution to the new film version of ROOTS, released in 2015. Hawa is married to Demba Kouyaté her musician husband and with their five children they share a lively household in Bamako.
Fodé Lassana Diabaté
Fodé Lassana Diabaté, de origen guineénse, ciudadano de Mali donde reside con su familia, es un griot (djeli), o sea músico hereditario, del pueblo Mandé. Es un gran maestro y virtuoso del balafón, sin duda uno de los mejores músicos de todo el continente africano. No sólo se ha dedicado a la tradición oral Mandé, sino también a crear nuevo repertorio y a desarrollar las posibilidades de su instrumento. El balafón es un xilófono de 22 teclas, que proviene de la zona sabana de África del oeste – uno de los ancestros de la marimba mexicana. Lassana ha tenido una larga trayectoria profesional como acompañante de cantantes (divas) de Mali como Babani Koné y Ami Koita. También ha grabado con algunos artistas importantes de Mali como Toumani Diabaté, Salif Keita, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Kasse Mady Diabaté y Bassekou Kouyaté. Lassana ha hecho colaboraciones con artistas internacionales a través de géneros como el jazz y la música latina. Él es el líder de Da Kali, un trío de griots de Mali cuyo objetivo es traer de vuelta repertorios y estilos del repertorio griot Mandé olvidados.
Edgar Jesús Serralde Mayer
Serralde musical training began during childhood when he joined Ollin Yoliztli, the school of artistic initiation, and specialized in folkloric instruments. He then continued his training of middle school and high school in the CEDART Diego Rivera of INBA. He continued to study in the Music Faculty of the UNAM (National Autonomous Mexican University) and concluded his Bachelor’s degree in Ethnomusicology. During his trajectory as a music interpreter he has participated in a variety of groupings and musical projects, such as “Jabalí, música tradicional de occidente” (Wild Boar, traditional music from the West), the typical orchestra “Sonecitos de la Tierra ” (Sonesitos of the Land) and the group “Doble Eje” (Double Axis), among others. His participation in such associations permitted his exposure to diverse forums, festivals, and sceneries throughout national territory, in addition to acces to the radio, television, and film(cinema). At the moment Serralde divides his professional activities between ethnographic research as a member of the project “Ritual Sonoro” (Resounding Ritual) based in CIESAS, Oaxaca, and personal projects. He is a member of the groups: La mar ensemble, Pasatono Orquesta and Orquesta Mexicana (a native instruments orchestra designed by Carlos Chávez).
Native of Ensenada, Southern California, Rodriguez has been playing the violin for 20 years along with composing and singing. She has since been a prominent figure in the world’s great stages, some of the more famous ones are: Smithsonian Folk Festival 2009 in Washington, The Music Festival in Pretoria Sudáfrica, The Fall Festival in Paris, The Verk Berkhart Festival in Austria, The Music Festival in Bogotá Colombia, Festival of the Arts in Santo Domingo República Dominicana, International Music Festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rainforest World music Festival in Malaysia, Festival of the Arts in Costa Rica and in México. She has participated in 5 record label productions among which Son of Wood collective stands out, here she takes the role of a violinist and singer along with César Olguín, Eugenia León, Piano Xarocho by Claudia Calderón and the Tierra Mestiza Ensamble by Gerardo Tamez. Ever since 2013 she has worked with the Ecological Group of the conservation of the Islands of Ensenada, Southern California, carrying out workshops and compositions in different islands of the state. She works in the project Music Nest in Tezoatlán, Oaxaca and collaborated with the traditional music group, Pasatono. London’s BBC Radio station dedicated a whole program to her work as a soloist. She won the ‘Luna del Auditorio’ (Auditoriums moon) in 2015 with the jarocho Son de Madera quartet. And recently she received a grant to assist an artistic residence in New York to work in the field of composition and interpretation of violin music pieces.
In 1992, after having studied in The Juilliard School of Music in New York, Rie graduated from Western Illinois University, Illinois with the cum laude honorary prize. She obtained her masters degree at the Naruto University of Education in Japan.Rie Watanabe has performed violin solo recitals, and has also played in chamber music concerts in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Japan. In the year 2000, she received the “Artist of the year” prize from the Tokushima prefecture. She has participated as an invited artist in the Niagara International Chamber Music Festival and continues to give classes in the International School for Musical Arts in Niagara, Canada. In 2007, she became familiar with traditional music from the highlands of Chiapas. She is a member of the “Sak Tzevul” (Thunder in Mayan Tsotsil language) music group. Rie has dedicated herself to disseminate a “fusion” music that comes from the highlands of Chiapas and classical music from Japan, and devotes herself to teach music to children and youth in Chiapas, Mexico. She has played with Sak Tzevul in different Mayan pueblos as well as in important festivals such as the International Cervantino Festival en Guanajuato, El Tajin, and others in Mexico. In 2010, the group made its debut in the U.S in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. In 2013 she carried out tours in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities in Japan. Since 2014, she has been collaborating with the Pasatono orchestra in Oaxaca, imparting workshops within the project “Musical Nests” in Tezoatlan, Oaxaca; and she has also participated in concerts with Pasatono orchestra.
Pablo Alberto Pérez Márquez
Born in Mexico city, he is a percussionist, Photographer and writer who lives in Oaxaca city since 2011. His early music studies were in the Yamaha Academy and in Fermatta Academy. During that time he joined different hard rock bands. In 2001 He entered the School of Music at the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM) where he studied Ethnomusicology and joined traditional music bands like “Orquesta Típica Sonecitos de la Tierra”, “Jaranero” and Cuinique”. At present he is a percussionist of “Pasatono Orchestra” and of “Carlos chávez Mexican Orchestra”. He has recorded two records, and music tracks for films and documentaries with Pasatono Orchestra. With this orchestra he has travelled abroad to United states. For the past 20 years he has collaborated 20 years in Museum exhibitions such as “Senderos de la Música Tradicional Mexicana” in the Popular Cultures National Museum. As a photographer he has presented his work in two exhibitions in Oaxaca City.
(participant in initial phase of the Project)
Percussionist specialized in Afrocaribbean music. Member of the well known group in Oaxaca Lorena y los Alebrijes. He has produced two records with this group.
Born in Santiago Llano Grande “La Banda” Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. Chogo is a self taught troubadour and a composer of songs inspired in nature, the coast, love, women, the land and its people and culture. He is a committed promoter of the culture of the region where he was born. He enjoys singing in small community gatherings in the streets or in other bigger settings and occasions. Life is just a passage and by the way we pass and sing.
Victor Hugo, was born fifty three years ago in Santiago Llano Grande “La banda” Jamiltepec, Oaxaca, México. He studied primary level at the community school, where the Project workshops are taking place. Then he moved to Pinotepa Nacional and to Cacahuatepec for secondary and profesional levels where he gradiated as a teacher. He has taken folk dance courses and as director of the Cultural Centre in Santiago Llano Grande he promotes the music genres and dance traditions from his town and other neighboring communities, having earned the priviledge to present the local Dance of the Devils at the famous State festival “Guelaguetza” in Oaxaca City in 2016.
Bernardo Porraz Arellano
Born in mexico city, Bernardo is a visual and plastic artist who paints and makes documentary films as his main artistic expression. He has collaborated with many artists from Mexico and abroad making video-art productions. As documentary film maker he has collaborated with several Oaxacan communities addressing situations and problems the people of these communities have. In the present he is working as director, photographer, and editor in several projects, among others “Somos negros de la Costa”. He now lives in Oaxaca city, Mexico.
(participant in initial phase of the Project)
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and lives in Oaxaca City in the present. He has produced fiction and documentary films, videos and TV programs. Relevant Works are his collaboration as producer with History Channel, Discovery Chanel, Chanel 4, Canal Infinito and recently with National Geographic. He is head of 100 Volando Films since 2005, a fiction film production enterprise. Some of his previous Works are publicity advertisements, corporative videos, political campaigns, and short documentaries for governmental agencies and private enterprises.
C. Jazmín Santos Estrada
Bachelor in communication sciences and graduate student in Culture Management. Jazmín has collaborated with Dr. Sergio Navarrete in different projects at CIESAS Pacífico Sur. In 2011-2013 Jazmín participated in the Project ECMO (Ethnography of the Music Cultures in Oaxaca) producing a music ethnography of the Chontal ethnic group. During the same period she collaborated as co-editor of a five volume Collection “Ritual Sonoro Catedralicio,” and participated in the logistics and administration of this Project. She is co-editor of the documentary in process “Paralelos” a visual narrative of the patron saint festivity in Santa Catarina Ixtepeji, Oaxaca.